Siesssta!!!!!!!!!!!!

No I did not mean to write ‘Fiesta’. But I guess you can basically call it that! This post is about a certain time of the day, where all of Spain shuts down and goes on a 3-4 hour break. Well, maybe not all of Spain, but it definitely feels like it! And that is what we like to call a ‘siesta’!

Here in Spain, most restaurants are open for lunch and dinner. Sounds pretty self explanatory right? Wrong. I was pretty stoked to find out that I had such a long break to explore San Sebastian and get to eat at various places around town. But when I am on break, it also means everyone else is on break! So for any future visitors of San Sebastian, make sure you plan accordingly when you want to eat out at all the great places around here. I must add that a lot of the restaurants are closed Sunday night, all day Monday, and often Tuesday.

But back to my Siesta! As I’ve been staging at Xarma Jatetxea, I’ve been lucky enough to work relatively close to the city of San Sebastian. It is a very scenic 2-3 miles to and from work, which is a good 30-40 minute walk depending on how lazy and slow I am feeling.

walk

My favorite part of the walk to Donostia is the moment when I start to see the amazing site known as, La Concha. I don’t know how many times I’ve walked up and down this beach, but I just can’t help to take a picture every time because it seems as if it’s a different experience every time I walk by it. To me, I still feel as if this place is unreal. Places like this only exist in dream lands. And to be able to see this indescribable place almost every day for the past 3 month has me feeling like I have been blessed, personally, by God himself. This has always been more than just a walk to point A to point B for me; it’s a walk of the utmost amount of gratitude and gratefulness for being lucky enough to have this once in a lifetime opportunity. And I’m getting the most out of it as I can during my last weeks here.

laconcha

I have been able to see some of the craziest, coolest, weirdest, and most interesting things on my siestas, here in San Sebastian. And it is my pleasure to share with you all of these amazing things that have kept my soul entertained and happy during my time between shifts!

Koh Tao and Atari

These are my go-to places in San Sebastian whenever I am in need of a coffee and/or drink. Koh Tao is very much a café that looks as if it could be planted in the heart of Capitol Hill in Seattle. This seems to be where all the ‘hip’ kids (and even older folks!) like to go because of the great amazing atmosphere the place has. With having very inexpensive drinks and some of the better coffee in town, I find that this place makes me the most ‘at home’ away from my home in Seattle. Also, it is the only place that I’ve found that serves the amazingness known as Café Bonbon!

kohtao

Atari is another great place I like to go. Atari is a great pintxo bar that has an amazing staff and great food, but of course they don’t serve any food during whenever I come in! They are located in the old part of San Sebastian right across from one of my favorite cathedrals in the city. On gorgeous days, I like to enjoy a glass (or a couple) of txakoli on the steps of one of my favorite and also one of the oldest cathedrals in San Sebastian.

atarisiesta

The Sandman and His Lil’ Sandies

Okay, throughout this post I may make up names for a lot of these people because this is the type of stuff that goes through my mind whenever I see them during my walks. These are probably some of the moments I’ve enjoy the most during my walk by the beach. There is this man who makes some of the most amazing murals in the sand at the beach of La Concha. There are usually two different parts of the beach in which he uses as his canvases and it seems as if each the amazing piece of sand art always changes daily. One of my favorite aspects of these sand murals is that this man usually has an army of little kids who like to help me create and construct these wonderful pieces.

sandman

The Beatlettes

So this is probably the place that majority of my loose change has gone. This Mother-and-daughter super group has taken street entertainment to another level with their perfectly crafted and mastered art of puppeteering . Going off the record now and say that I am usually terrified at anything that has to do with puppets, but I found this just simply amazing. With perfect replicas of the Beatles, they have somehow managed to recreate what I feel like would be a true, live, Beatles experience. But with puppets! I can’t imagine the amount of practice it took for them to get timing down with controlling very specific pieces of each puppet from the head movements to strumming of the guitars to the crashing of a cymbal. They are musicians and artists in their own right because there’s much more going on than the twiddling of strings. Also, they always have a huge group of little children that like to sit down and watch as they do their music. There was this one time where all these little munchkins were dancing in a moshpit. Long Live Rock n Roll!

beatles

The Llama and His One Man Band

An amazing street act of this guy who is fitted head to toe with everything he needs to make up a whole band. Pretty surprised at the songs he was playing as they were all recognizable tunes. And plus he had a Llama as a Hype man. Super dope.

IMG_0024

The Bubble Guy

Always see this guy on the nicest days out. Seems as if he is one with the weather because he is always out when the wind is perfect. He makes some of the craziest bubbles using two sticks with a string tied onto them and a bucket of soapy water. Watching him help very excited kids make some of the biggest bubbles I’ve ever seen definitely makes me have a smile from ear to ear!

bubbleguy

The Saw

I had to double-take when I first saw this man. At first I thought he was playing a violin or some type of string instrument because I heard some of the finest classical music coming from his direction. But when I took a good look, he was actually playing music from a saw! Pretty ridiculous but quite an amazing talent.

 IMG_5218

????

I really don’t get what this guy does or what to call him. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen him do anything other than look really creepy. Also, I have NO clue if his little friend is a real person or is just a freaky little mannequin. I’m still waiting for the day for it to move and scare the living bejeezus out of me.

IMG_9607

The Bongo Brothers

These guys are always bringing the jams to La Concha. Regardless if it’s an amazingly sunny day out or the gloomiest of days, they are always out and about banging on those drums filling the ears and souls of who ever walks by with some great grooves.

IMG_9751

I’ve got to admit, regardless of the large amount of time I had between work shifts and how exhausting it would get for me trying to find ways to occupy my time, San Sebastian always had a way to fill that void. I’ve been very grateful to see so much of the life around here in San Sebastian and it’s something that I’ve grown to love so much. This is definitely a site I’m going to miss seeing everyday once I return back home to Seattle…..

Pintxo Roundup: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

Where: Bar Borda Berri, Donostia-San Sebastian

IMG_8803

Pintxo: Kallos de Bacalao al Pil Pil

IMG_9470

Probably one of my favorite Pintxo bars here in San Sebastia via Andoni. This is the bar where I had my first bite here in Spain. And I had the chance to revisit it after my trip to the Sammic Headquarters. I was really craving some seafood so Bacalao was my go to! I have been familiar with Pil Pil, which is basically an emulsified sauce made from oil and the protein of a gelatinous fish, but I have never actually got to experience it. So this was my chance! I’ve always been so interested in Pil Pil because it really captures the essence of flavor from the fish and transforms it into a very creamy and decadent sauce. I also really like the fact that sauce’s name has came about because it is supposedly the onomatopoeia (vocab word of the day!)  of the sound that is made during the rotation motion that happens in the pan when the oil is being emulsified with the cod proteins to make the sauce.

The dish in itself was everything I wanted. The bacalao was super tender and had a very rich flavor. The pil pil sauce really enhanced the fishiness of the dish without it being too overly-fishy. There was a nice border of alioli that encapsulates the cod and it’s sauce that really rounded out this whole dish. And like I have always said, alioli makes everything better! With a couple slices of fresh bread and a glass full of txakoli, my day was made and my tummy was so happy.

But what is part of the cod was I eating exactly? It wasn’t until a couple days after when I  decided to actually look up what ‘Kallos de bacalao’ really meant. And to my surprise, what I was served was Cod Tripe. Seen as a delicacy in many countries, this part of the fish is actually pretty difficult to find. I was really surprised to find that I was eating the offals of the cod, but it kind of makes sense because it had a texture unlike any piece of cod I’ve had before. It supposedly isn’t actually like the part of tripe you’d find on a cow, but actually is the natatory bladder of the cod, or for all you fans of Asian cuisine, the fish maw. Either way, this dish was very exceptional and definitely worth ordering again!

Pintxo Roundup: Bocadillo Con Todo

IMG_9186

So one of the greatest aspects of living in San Sebastian is that I have access to so much amazing food. I am surprised I haven’t started this earlier, but I have decided to start writing about random pintxos that I have eaten throughout my trip. My Pintxo Roundups are great because it makes me able to share the great (and bad!) food I have devoured. Also, it’ll be a great filler between my blog posts! So here we go with my first official Pintxo Roundup.

Pintxo: Bocadillo Con Todo

IMG_9184

Where: Nagusia Lau Bar, Donostia-San Sebastian

IMG_9234

So I got to admit, this isn’t the greatest of pintxo bars in Donostia that I have been too. It has a nice variety of pintxos with adequate quality of ingredients. I chose to feature this as my first Pintxo Roundup because it was one of the closest bites of food that reminds me of something I’d get in America.

I’m pretty sure it actually isn’t called Bocadillo con todo, which translates to sandwich with everything,  because it literally had everything that a sandwich should have. Not a puny little sandwich with a slap of cured meat, which i actually find quite delicious. I grabbed this bocadillo on the go on my way back to work because my stomach was growling and it was the most substantial looking thing on the bar. And at only 2 euros, you can’t go wrong! It consisted of a nice slab of ham, bacon, sliced tomatoes, cheese, and slathered in alioli. It was actually rather enjoyable and melded really well together, especially with the garlicky mayonnaise to bind all the flavors together. The bread wasn’t half as bad either.

I apologize now to all of the people who had to watch me mow down on this messy sandwich as I was rushing back to work. Atleast you all got to see me thoroughly enjoy this monster of a bocadillo!

Everything Sounds Prettier In Spanish…..

Well except for when I try to speak it!  But listening to my surroundings could pass off to being a soundtrack to any great movie. The people here are just as beautiful as the language that they speak. One thing I have noticed myself doing here, which is totally the opposite in Seattle, is that I barely listen to my iPod. Even when it’s completely a ghost town out, walking around to complete silence is something that I never would experience in Seattle. It can be quite a beautiful thing. I find that when I listen to music, I tend to block out everything that is going around me because I am in my own world. But that is not where I want to be.

IMG_8495

The view from our front terrace.

All around me is a new world. Everything I have became accustomed too in my past 24 years from the people I associate myself with straight down to the way I live my life, I left all that behind the moment I stepped on the airplane. This is my chance to get out of my comfort zone and indulge in a lifestyle that I will never be able to in the States or anywhere else. I can only grow and learn from these experiences and it’s my time to take advantage of this new world around me.

Living in San Sebastian has been quite something. I’m getting near towards the end of my first month here and I feel like that I’m getting close to figuring out my groove.

Let’s start off by my apartment. I live in this great 2 bedroom/2 bathroom flat provided by Sammic and the Basque Stage with fellow Basque Stage Top Chef, Susy Santos. This apartment has exceeded my expectations for living situation, especially in a different country. We have a nice little living room that has a couch, a dining table, and a door to one of our terraces that overlooks the neighborhood of Lasarte. The kitchen is quite spacious and even though very ill equipped, it does a great job of serving its purposes.  Also, I was surprised to see a washing machine in place of where a dishwasher would be in a normal kitchen. Just a washing machine, so that means that we have to hang up all of our clothes to dry.

flat

We live no more than 2 minutes away from the train station that gets to Donostia-San Sebastian in a quick 14 minutes and only a 7 minute train ride to the Lugaritz station where my work, Xarma Jatetxea, is located.

IMG_9705

It has been quite easy finding my way around San Sebastian via train and autobus. The only thing that sucks is that they stop running rather early in the night with the latest bus usually being before 11 PM. This has made it pretty difficult for me some nights when we are busy at Xarma, because there is no way I’m leaving until my job is done.  Straight up. Even though this state of mind has resulted in me having to wait for an hour for a taxi in the hail, it wasn’t too bothersome knowing that I put my time in at work.

IMG_8754

Hail at 1 in the morning while waiting for a taxi!!

This has been only one of the many challenges that I have had to face since living here. The biggest challenged for me has definitely been communication. I speak very little, if you can even count it, Spanish. I knew what I was getting myself into from the get go, but to my surprise, it hasn’t been TOO difficult communicating with the people here in San Sebastian. I am very lucky that the people here are really nice and actually are very interested in talking to me whenever it seems like I’m a little lost. I’m just grateful for peoples patience and willingness to help figure out what I’m trying to say to them.

With working at the Harvest Vine for the past 3 years, it has helped me out a lot when it comes to speaking about food. Ordering food at restaurants or pintxo bars has come pretty easy to me, luckily. And it definitely has helped out in the kitchen at Xarma. Just knowing the Spanish words for ingredients is a huge help.

But then comes the change in the small details like the way they measure things and even tell time. Nothing comes in pounds or inches. I have had to get use to the fact that I will be measuring things using the metric system.  After 12 o clock comes 13 o clock, military time. Dates are written with the day of the date first them follows the month, i.e. 23/4. Celsius rather than Fahrenheit.  These are just the small things I had to quickly get accustomed to living here.

So this is what it has been like living in San Sebastian for me so far. I’m glad that I’ve been able to get a little more comfortable in this place that I will be calling my home for the next 2 months. I’m really thankful for all the help and friendliness of everyone here who have made this a whole lot easier on myself. It just makes me really excited for all the challenges and adventures that will come with my time here.

Here are some additional things I have noticed about life here in San Sebastian:

-Asians are pretty rare to find here. I have been called “Gangnam Style” or “Psy” a handful amount of times. Specially from kids.

IMG_8819

A shirt I happen to find at the H&M.

– Justin is an uncommon name here. Whenever people find out my name is Justin, they almost always say, “Like Justin Beiber!”. So I have dawned the name Justin Bieber with a lot of the people I associate with on a day to day basis.

– There are a lot of families here in San Sebastian. I feel like I see more kids here than any other age group. This makes me wish my family was out here because Tegan would love all of the great parks and things to do here!

IMG_9708

– Everyone here skates goofy. Roller blades are still pretty big here. And everyone either bikes or walks around here.

– I have seen some of the coolest graffiti here in the most random places.

graffiti

– Everyone from the Vine was right. I have seen so many mullets here it’s been amazing.

IMG_9710

My First Week Pt. 1

My oh my! So its been more than a full week since I’ve been here and there is so much that I want to share! I’ve found that it is pretty difficult to maintain this blog as I am a very busy person, so please bear with me as I try my hardest to keep all of you guys updated with all things Spain! And since I have so much to say, I’m breaking up this post into 2 parts so you all don’t have to feel like you are reading a novel!

So after my first day, I woke up around 4 PM. No surprise here. I woke up feeling like I got hit by a bus, confuse of what time it really was, and had known I slept alright by the amount of drool that was dried on my face. It wasn’t a pretty site, but I didn’t care because I WAS IN SPAIN!!!

What it looks like when I wake up.

What it looks like when I wake up.

I decided to venture out in Lasarte so that I could get more accustomed to where I will be living for the next 3 months. I found Lasarte to be a very cute and small town just about 6 miles from Donostia-San Sebastian. I ended up being able to walk around majority of the town within an hour or so. I stopped real quick at a pintxo bar called, Gure Etxea, to grab a quick bite to eat. Ended up getting 2 gildas, one with salt-cured anchovies and the other with vinegar-cured anchovies, a jamon bocadillo, and a Txakioli to wash it down. It was a pretty perfect snack to fuel me for the rest of the day.

IMG_8452

I decided to go walk around some more and ended up finding this crazy building that overlooked the interstate. It caught my eye because it was tagged from head to toe with really cool looking graffiti. So I ended up walking up the hill to get a closer look.

graffiti building

As I was exploring the unique building, I happen to hear some music coming from the building. This really surprised me because it had looked as if this building was uninhabited, but I guess I was wrong! I noticed this room that had 2 old Spaniards jamming out on bass and electric guitar. They noticed me and actually invited me in. I was a little hesitant first as I could clearly noticed that they didn’t speak a word of English but we were actually able to communicate pretty well through the use of my awesome hand gestures and my broken-ass Spanish. “Cervesa?” one of the men asked me? Usually I wouldn’t accept alcohol, drinks, or any other kind of food from a stranger, especially in a different country. But the can was sealed and I was parched from walking around town so I had to accept! They eventually asked if played instruments and then they handed me the guitar and I played a couple quick riffs. I could tell by their smiles from ear to ear that they were excited to find someone else who loved playing music. It was then that they unveiled something under a couple blankets, a drum set! They set it up and then handed me drum sticks. We then commenced in a good 2 hours of jamming and rocking until the sun went down and the room started growing darker.  I would add the video of us playing music, but in all reality, we really didn’t sound that great. Haha I proceeded to say my thank yous and good-byes then headed home.

My 'bandmates'!

My ‘bandmates’!Look at that Mullet!

The next day, I decided to figure out my commute to restaurant that I will be staging at, Xarma. I definitely want to be prepared and don’t want to look like an idiot and get lost on my first day! I also got a hold of a friend, Antton, who I met through Juan Carlos and Carolin from the Vine. He Spent a couple summers in Seattle and he resides on a farm here in San Sebastian, so it was nice to already have a connection with someone who lives here. I took a 7 minute train to the Lugaritz station and walked to my work. A whole lot easier than I expected, thank goodness!

bus

Antton met me in front of Xarma and then we were off to walk towards San Sebastian. San Sebastian is a 3 mile walk from my work and it happened to be a gorgeous day. We walked around La Concha towards Parte Vieja de San Sebastian, which is the old part of San Sebastian where all the pintxo bars are. Antton took me all around San Sebastian and to some of his favorite spots and he treated me to some pintxos! Thanks Antton!

anttonwalk

Out of the bars that he took me too, Bar Txepetxa and La Cuchara were probably my two favorite. Bar Txepetxa is a special little pintxo bar because they specialize in serving anchovies. We ordered Antxoas con creama de centolla, vinegar-cured anchovies with a creamy crab sauce. I could honestly eat 50 of these. This pintxo is still probably one of my favorite bites I’ve had ever since I’ve been in Spain. I’ve been back to Bar Txepetxa 3 times since then, so be ready for a review of this restaurant soon as I plan to eat my way through their whole menu.

bar txepetxa

La Cuchara De San Telmo is a little gem that was recommended by many people (thanks Mara!). This is the kind of restaurant that I wish America had. They serve amazing food, have a beautiful space, and crank out food as fast as you can order. We shared the veal cheeks, octopus, fist-sized scallops wrapped in iberico ham, and the foie gras. I have so much to say about their food and plan to return as much as I can so you all can expect a review from this place as well!

lachucara

Antton then directs me towards my bus home and we part ways. It was real nice to have someone show me around and tell me so much about this beautiful place. I am grateful for the people at work for connecting us and am excited to hang out with him while I am here! Eventually, I’m hoping to stop by his family farm and see all the great cheese and products that they produce.

To be continued……